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Tune in for the best information, innovation & inspiration to help you grow your family tree!

Nov 11, 2014

We all need a little inspiration now and then, and in this episode I hope to bring you some through good books, inspiring comments from other listeners, and some new ideas to try.

Once I got past the organization of my new office, what I’ve really enjoyed doing is devoting time to display family photos and artifacts, and just decorating the room. It may seem frivolous, but I don’t this it is. We spend a lot of time in our offices, and you may have a home office, or corner of a room where you work on your genealogy.  Considering the importance of the work and the time you spend doing it, I think it’s time and effort well spent to put effort in to inspiring decorations and displays. 

(Lisa's new office display)

Europeana for Genealogy: WWI Digital Archive and More

MORE German Genealogy Records at

Indiana Genealogy Records to be Digitized by

1865 New York State Census Now on FamilySearch



Feedback on the “Lizzie” interview from Alvie
I am thoroughly enjoying the podcasts and videos. Recently I drove to South Florida and listened to the episode about Lizzie Milligan.  It sure brought back lots of memories.  Many years before I got heavy into genealogy a co-worker of mine gave me a large box of post cards which was passed to him by his grandmother.  These cards were mailed during the digging of the Panama Canal and these were cards sent to his grandmother by her future husband from Panama.

They were so very interesting reading but I had no use for them so I turned them over to our local museum in Lakeland, FL.  I don't know what became of them.


Kay loves MyHeritage too

"Loved this podcast today - I listened while I walked my 3-mile loop.  Just want to share a MyHeritage story.

I had uploaded a small GEDCOM at least a couple of years ago and never done much with it.  They had no record matching to speak of in the beginning and all the family matches were to persons who had much less information about the families than I did.   However, at RootsTech last winter, I talked to one of their reps - told him I would probably just let my subscription run out.  He convince me to try uploading a larger file, get the data subscription, and in fact offered me a free three months to try again - so I really couldn't say no.

Now a bit of background.  I lived in Alabama for several years - and probably about 15 years ago the newspaper had published an extended article about the Sultanadisaster, the steamboat that exploded on the Mississippi River near Memphis on 27 Apr 1865 with the loss of some 1600 lives  - the Cahaba prison where so many of those unfortunate men on the Sultana had come from was only about 50 miles from us.  At that point I'd never heard of it but I became quite fascinated and interested in the story and read everything I could find - I discovered that most of the released Union prisoners who died on the Sultana were from Indiana, Illinois & Ohio and knew that I had family in Indiana during that War, but didn't think there was any personal connection.

After I began to work with MyHeritage again, up popped a Kokomo Daily Tribunenewspaper obituary of the brother-in-law of one of my paternal great-grandfathers, who had died in 1925 in Howard County, IN.   And there it was - he had been on theSultana and had suffered serious burns the result of which remained problematic for the rest of his long life.  It was thought that infection from the old burn wounds were the ultimate cause of his death.  In fact, he had been reported as dead to his family, because of the unbelievable chaos that surrounded the rescues.   What joy there must have been when he did return home!

I always wonder when this sort of serendipity happens.  Was I always fascinated by this saga because I knew that somehow there was a family story involved?

Anyway, I, too have become a believer in MyHeritage!  The brother-in-law never applied for a pension, or otherwise mentioned his service and I had the information about where he was buried.  As a collateral relative, he wasn't really a person I spent much research time on.   I probably never would have done a thorough newspaper search.  But there it was - nicely found for me and connecting to another bit of history!"



GEM: BOOK CLUB conversation with Sunny Morton

“When [your] parent dies…your relationship with their history changes almost overnight. It suddenly becomes much more relevant to you because you feel like you are the only one left who is in a position to remember it. So having never wanted to know anything about my mother’s life, suddenly after her death it seemed imperative to me to find out absolutely everything….It felt to me that I couldn’t…stake out the parameters of what I’d lost until I knew everything there was to know about her.” -Emma Brockes, on She Left Me the Gun 

Book Recommendations:

Suggestion from Mary: 
The Woman in the Photograph: The Search for My Mother's Past by Mani Feniger

Here’s one along a similar theme of secrets in a mother’s past and the mother-daughter relationship. One of our listeners, Mary, wrote to us about it. She said, "I just ordered this book and thought you might be interested in reading it. I am looking forward to reading it myself.” The book is The Woman in the Photograph by Mani Feniger. Here’s a little blurb on the book: Mani Feniger wanted nothing to do with the relics of her mother's life before she escaped from Nazi Germany in 1936. But when the fall of the Berlin Wall exposed the buried secrets and startling revelations of her mother's past, she was drawn into an exploration-of history and family, individuality and identity, mothers and daughters-that would change her life forever."

Listener suggestion from Mike: 
The Lost German Slave Girl: The Extraordinary True Story of Sally Miller and Her Fight for Freedom in Old New Orleans  is by John Bailey

"Here's a book I found that you and your listeners might also enjoy. The Lost German Slave Girl recounts the story of a poor emigrant family and what happened to one of the daughters.  I found it fascinating.  The story is non-fiction and takes place around New Orleans in the first half of the 19th century.  There is much family research involved, some heart-wrenching descriptions of what the emigrants suffered, and delightful insights into the New Orleans of that time period.  It's the kind of research that we family historians love to do but is more dramatic than many of the personal stories we work on."


Profile America: Thursday, November 13th
“Even the most mundane items we take for granted have to be invented by someone. This month 110 years ago, that someone was Connecticut inventor Harvey Hubbell. In November 1904, he received a patent for the world's first detachable electric plug: the two-, now sometimes three-prong plug familiar to us today. Remarkable as it sounds, at the time electric terminals would extend out from a wall, and any electrical device had to be hardwired to them. A time consuming process with a chance of electrocution. Hubbell was no one-hit wonder, as in the 1890s he created an electric switch and patented the pull-chain electric light socket. Electrical supplies for builders and homeowners are available at nearly 29,000 locations in the U.S., including 6,500 home centers and 12,500 hardware stores.”



Improvements in Using Autosomal DNA for Genealogy
Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide

You may recall from our recent DNA discussion on the Genealogy Gems podcast (Episode 168) that recently discontinued their mtDNA and YDNA tests (the two that trace our direct maternal and direct paternal lines) to focus on autosomal DNA (which delivers information about both your mother’s and your father’s side of your ancestral tree).

Well, recently I attended an all-day meeting hosted by a summit to talk about current trends and accomplishments at Ancestry DNA , and ideas about the future of DNA testing at Free Shipping on Ancestry DNA Kit w Code: FREESHIPDNA

The meeting included a diverse group of Ancestry representatives, from CEO Tim Sullivan to members of the marketing, scientific, communications, and even computer science departments, as well as some of the top voices in genetic genealogy. It was an open and lively discussion, and I walked away with a few gems I want to share with you today.

More Powerful DNA Hints Coming

In AncestryDNA, the ‘shaky leaf” hints are meant to help you find a common ancestor between you and your DNA matches. The computer code behind the old hints was not very efficient. Lazy, in fact. It started at the bottom of your tree—and the bottom of your match’s tree—and slapped on a shaky leaf at the first sign of a shared common ancestor.

While this method worked for a large number of cases, it was leaving a lot of stones unturned. But the IT guys at Ancestry have beefed up the computer power, allowing them to cover a much greater distance through our trees and the trees of our matches before making a judgment about the best place to assign that shaky leaf.

The result? Better hints about how you and your match COULD be related. Remember, the leaf is still just a SUGGESTION on how you and your match might be related. It is not a crystal ball.

Did You Know?

  • Ancestry DOES store your DNA samples in a secure location.
  • Ancestry spent months designing their own DNA collection kit.
  • Ancestry was able to attract some of the brightest scientists in the field of population genetics because of YOU. You with your documented pedigree charts and your willingness to help move this science of discovering our ancestors forward.

Looking Ahead

There is no question that the genetic genealogy industry is rapidly advancing, and our discussion with Ancestry certainly didn’t disappoint. While I will be sharing with you in future posts about some of the exciting changes, I do want you to be ready for one that will be coming online fairly soon.

It has to do with your matches. If you have been tested by AncestryDNA, you may have been initially excited, then nearly immediately overwhelmed, by the number of individuals listed in your match page, all claiming to have some kind of connection to you and your family tree.

All three major genetic genealogy testing companies (AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, and 23andMe) are using basically the same laboratory methods to glean information from your DNA. What differs is how they use that data to draw conclusions about your ethnic heritage and about your relationships to other individuals. As it turns out, AncestryDNA has been reporting far more individuals as your relatives than it should have.

You can think of it like this: You have sent out tickets, in the form of your genetic code, to an exclusive party where you (of course!) are the star. However, you have lost the guest list and you are counting on the testing company to check the ticket of each guest before they enter your party to be sure they were really invited.

AncestryDNA was relatively new in the role of party bouncer, and in the interest of not turning away any VIP guests, they initially allowed guests into your party who had (gasp!) forged tickets!! But as AncestryDNA admits more guests, the experience it’s gained in party monitoring is starting to show.

You see, each of the forged tickets has some unique qualities that have started to send up red flags to the team of scientists at AncestryDNA . They are now in the process of carefully documenting what each forged ticket looks like and tossing those unwanted guests out on their ear.

The short of it: in the near future your match list at Ancestry will be much shorter. Which is good news to you, as it means only those invited genetic cousins will be around eating hors d’ oeuvres and ready to talk about your shared common ancestry.

Each testing company has its strengths and weaknesses. It was good to have a bit of insight into this one company and come to a greater understanding about why it is they do what they do. It is a great time to be in this young genetic genealogy industry, with so much room to grow and change. I will let you know when I find the next genetic gem.

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Free Shipping on Ancestry DNA Kit w Code: FREESHIPDNA


GEM: Couple Celebrates 80 years of Marriage

Read Couple Celebrates Astonishing 80 Years of Marriage, So What's Their Secret?

Watch the video and see photos through time of the successful couple at